South Band Tribune – May 16, 2004
Iraq violence leads to threats against Arabs
ADC issues security advisory to area Arab Americans, Muslims
By TAREK EL-TABLAWY
DETROIT -- An Arab-American advocacy group has issued an advisory cautioning area Muslims and Arabs to be vigilant of possible repercussions from the escalating violence in Iraq and the recent beheading of an American civilian there. The warning issued Thursday by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee came after several mosques and organizations received what they said was an unusually high number of threatening messages within the past few days.
Community leaders say they believe the threats were issued in response to the beheading of 26-year-old Nicholas Berg, a telecommunications businessman from West Chester, Pa. His body was found May 8 in western Baghdad, Iraq, and his decapitation later was shown on an al-Qaida-linked Web site.
"We sent the advisory mainly because we, as well as our national office, received messages saying that 'This time, it's going to be different for you' and that 'Your community will pay for (Berg's death),' " said Imad Hamad, director of the Michigan chapter of the ADC.
"We usually get some threats," he said. "But we felt that this time, the tone was different. This can't be ignored."
Special Agent Dawn Clenney, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, said Friday that her office has "not seen any increase in terms of threats against Arabs."
The advisory is the first such warning the ADC has issued since shortly after the start of the war in Iraq last year. It urges members of southeast Michigan's estimated 300,000-member Arab-American community to be particularly vigilant of possible threats.
Hamad said ADC officials recorded a sizable increase in complaints from area Arab-Americans and Muslims during the past four months -- a surge that has coincided with the increasing violence in Iraq.
Between January and April, 75 cases of discrimination or harassment were reported, he said, compared to the roughly five calls per week they usually receive. The complaints mainly related to discrimination or harassment at work.
When staff at the Dearborn-based Arab American News arrived at work Thursday morning, they had at least 15 messages and calls, said Osama Siblani, the weekly newspaper's editor and publisher.
One said: "You (expletive) Arabs are all going to pay. Get ready to be taken out."
"They called us animals. They said they're going to kill us. They didn't leave any derogatory word unused," said Siblani, whose newspaper was hit in December 2003 by a Molotov cocktail.
He said Dearborn police were contacted, and they said they would increase patrols in the area. Nearly a third of Dearborn's 100,000 residents trace their roots back to the Middle East.
At the nearby Karbalaa Islamic Center, an assistant reported that a man had called saying based on what he had seen on television over the past few weeks, he wanted "one reason why I shouldn't hate all Muslims." Similar calls were placed to the Islamic Center of America, a Detroit mosque whose members are mainly Iraqi Shiites.
ADC Advisory Statement to Arab Americans and Muslims
In light of the horrible violence in Iraq, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), is releasing the following advisory statement to members of the Arab-American and Muslim communities.
ADC regards this advisory as a prudent and necessary step given the recent acts of violence in Iraq. ADC has developed this advisory in light of the historic pattern of hate crimes, abuse and discrimination faced
by the Arab-American and Muslim communities during the 1991 Gulf War and in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. ADC urges everyone to exercise common sense and rely on their own best judgment, but offers the following as suggestions should the need arise:
1) IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS PLACED IN PHYSICAL DANGER BECAUSE OF YOUR ETHNICITY, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN:
-Call the police (dial 911 in most communities)
-Contact the local FBI office, a list of FBI field offices is included on our website, please see:
http://www.adc.org/index.php?id=2233 It is the FBI's job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and specific threats of violence.
-If the threat is imminent, go to a safe location such as a police station or church
-If you feel threatened in your home or community, move to a friend's house, or a hotel for as long as necessary
-Contact ADC to file a complaint by emailing the ADC Legal Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (202) 244-2990
2) IF YOUR PLACE OF WORK, PLACE OF WORSHIP, OR SCHOOL IS IDENTIFIED WITH ARABS AND/OR MUSLIMS:
-Make sure the location has an open line of communication with law enforcement.
-Make sure you know all the exits to your building
-Make sure the location has a current emergency plan that is defined and can be implemented should the need arise
3) IF YOUR CHILD CAN BE IDENTIFIED AS ARAB OR MUSLIM, OR MAY BE CONFUSED FOR BEING OF MIDDLE-EASTERN ORIGIN:
-Make sure you discuss the events with your children and that they feel comfortable speaking with an adult if they face harassment by others.
For advice on speaking to your children about the situation in Iraq, please see:
-Make sure your children know what steps to take to avoid confrontation with other students
-Work with your children's school to implement an anti-discriminatory policy
ADC would like to emphasize that it is issuing this advisory based on experiences in the community in recent years, and purely as a precautionary measure. ADC presents these suggestions for the consideration of
the Arab-American and Muslim communities, to be evaluated by each family and individual according to their own best judgment and in the context of their own situation and relationship with their local community.